The Self-Awareness Guy

Leadership and Self-Awareness

5 Tips to Be an Innovative Leader

5 Tips to Be an Innovative Leader


Leaders have an amazing potential to make a difference in people's lives. Even our most basic actions can significantly impact clients, create new opportunities, change the world, or bring everything to a screeching halt. We personally choose whether we are leaders who make things happen or get in the way. Let's look at two leadership approaches that are commonly found in the real world: stagnation and innovation.

Leaders who choose stagnation find themselves continually endeavoring to maintain the status quo. They are often very caring and deeply committed to their organization but do the same things year after year. They cherish tradition and are comfortable with the staff, programs, mission, board, donors and volunteers they've had for years. There is little incentive for change in their organization because everything has run the same way for a long time.

An alternative approach focuses on innovation. Leaders who value innovation put systems in place that anticipate and welcome new challenges. They view change as an opportunity rather than a threat. Their organizations tend to encourage finding new ways of doing things and reward creative thinking. They benefit from being nimble and proactive rather than reactive.

The impact of each of these approaches on our clients is huge because we serve them differently if our leadership style is oriented toward stagnation or innovation. Leaders know intellectually that it's positive to welcome change and encourage innovation but there isn't a specific template for how to do it. Here are some practical tips to help you continue being an innovative leader.

1. Think outside the box and actually do it. Embrace a philosophy where you constantly seek extraordinary ideas and approaches. You will be better prepared to deal with the issues that come your way.

2. Help people shine. Find out what people do best and let them do it. Get out of the way and watch them grow. Be available if they ask for help but otherwise just let them be great.

3. Give up the need to control things. Let go of power and status and the need to be in charge. Invite new thoughts and perspectives. Remember that the cause you work for is far greater than any one person.

4. Practice excellent listening skills. Immerse yourself in what other people say. They will tell you what you're doing right or what needs help. Trust that your clients will tell you what they need and your staff will also teach you a lot.

5. Make some new friends and work with them. Partner with others and learn from their experiences. Forge lasting relationships that merge your talents and energy so you can serve even greater numbers of people.

Innovative leaders touch people because they know that leadership isn't about them, it's about everyone else. Think of a leader who made a remarkably positive impact on you. They likely took the spotlight off them and let you bask in the glow. The leaders who consistently achieve the best results are those who inspire others to shine.

A major benefit of innovative leadership is that it allows us to do more with less effort. We help our clients more efficiently because we think globally rather than according to some set script. We are more attentive to their needs and are willing to help simply because it makes us and them feel good. We go the extra mile because we are not afraid of the turns in the road.

Innovative leadership helps us let go of stagnation and start breathing fresh air. When we live without limits it opens doors of opportunity. If we shed our fear of change and chaos we get to see the world as a place where anything can happen. Without any boundaries, we are capable of achieving spectacular results. As leaders, we each have the potential to make a dramatic difference in someone else's life. Which path will you choose?

Cheers,
Guy

10 Examples of Workplace Diversity

10 Examples of Workplace Diversity

There are many examples of workplace diversity that leaders and employees overlook but that can benefit everyone in their organization, including individual's:

  • Life experience.
  • Thinking style.
  • Socio-economic situation.
  • Work ethic.
  • Worldview.
  • Cultural background.
  • Education.
  • Physical appearance.
  • Communication style.
  • Skills.

Each of these items offers leaders and fellow employees the opportunity to learn more about another person and to use their unique perspective to improve the workplace. The trap we fall in is that we try to stuff people in a predetermined box rather than learning about who they really are and using their talents to build stronger, more diverse workplaces.

Cheers,

Guy

Leadership Secrets of Inspirational Leaders

Leadership Secrets of Inspirational Leaders

When you're in a leadership position it's easy to lose sight of the big picture and lead by reacting to whatever comes your way. Inspirational leaders practice self-awareness by understanding how their thoughts and behaviors affect the people around them and their workplaces. Here are two leadership secrets that sit in plain sight but are overlooked by the vast majority of leaders:

It's Easy to Boss People Around and Tell Them What to Do

The most common leadership style is being directive and giving orders. It takes little skill to walk around telling people what to do, it's like asking someone to turn on the lights, throw out the garbage or get you a soda; there's limited complex thinking or interaction involved. In spite of this fact, leaders worldwide adhere to the view that all they have to do to inspire people is tell them what to do. If morale is low, just raise your voice and tell people to keep going. If something isn't working, just get angry and issue more commands. The missing element in this approach is the employee or co-worker; they have no input or stake in the process. People aren't motivated or excited to do great work when their voices don't matter and they're constantly being given directives. No matter how you package it, leadership by shouting orders is a one-way process that only satisfies one person.

You Get Better Results When People Motivate Themselves to Excel

People do better work when they motivate themselves and use their innate talents and abilities. Inspirational leaders know that, when they find out what people love to do and allow them to do it, they get much better results. These leaders hire individuals and delegate tasks that are meaningful to their employees and design their workplaces to help people use their brains and think critically. New ideas are welcome and creative thinking is encouraged. When leaders value people's amazing skills and let them assign themselves purposeful work, they're much more likely to do great things. Self-aware leaders get out of the way and trust people to direct themselves and, in the process, create a workforce that is more motivated and energized because they're treated like grownups.

You get to decide which of these two leadership approaches you practice in your workplace: Treat everyone like a baby or set up the conditions so they can shine. It's up to you whether you encourage your employees to be great or keep throwing orders at them. Which leadership approach will you choose?

Cheers,

Guy

Leaders’ Obsessive Focus on What Employees Do Wrong

Leaders’ Obsessive Focus on What Employees Do Wrong

Many leaders seem fixated on pointing out what their employees are doing wrong.  It’s as if they see themselves as omniscient sages whose sole purpose is to constantly remind people about the things they aren’t doing quite right.

Here’s a common situation that occurs in many workplaces and that illustrates how much leaders focus on the negative.  A bright, energetic employee comes to her supervisor with great ideas gleaned from her work experience and ongoing conversations with her employees.  She wants to explore and develop ways to use these ideas to improve how her department functions.  The supervisor listens to her for a minute or so, points out the things that are wrong about her ideas, gives her a lecture about what he sees going wrong, tells her what she should do and sends her off to fulfill his directives.  During the interaction her eyes gloss over and she moves from being excited and engaged to feeling chastised and unimportant.  The irony of the situation is that she had possible solutions to the very problems her supervisor talked about during his unsolicited critique.  Another wasted opportunity to improve their workplace.

It’s not that the supervisor was being evil in this case, it’s just that he’d been programmed to only see what’s wrong and impose his perspective rather than looking for what’s going well or entertaining other possibilities.  So what can leaders do the next time they feel the irresistable urge to critique or offer a “helpful” suggestion?  How about saying or doing something positive?  Let’s look at the difference between the two approaches.

When You Focus on What’s Wrong

Employee: I have this great idea for improving productivity.
Leader: That’s great, let me tell you what we’re going to do (rattles off list of everything that’s going wrong).

When You Focus on the Positive

Employee: I have this great idea for improving productivity.
Leader: I’d love to hear it (the leader listens and then encourages the employee to go do it on her own).

The difference between these two approaches is that one of them focuses on supporting people and encouraging them to grow and succeed.  As leaders, we often spend so much time correcting people that we forget that there is a lot they are doing, or could do, that is very positive.  The trick is to shift from always focusing on the negative to highlighting the positive.  Think about your own experience: Would you rather your boss allowed you to explore your great idea or spent a lot of time telling you why it’s wrong or why you should do it their way?

Leaders have the choice as to how they interact with their employees.  They can create workplaces that constrain and dominate people or environments where new ideas are encouraged and celebrated.  What will you do to focus on the positive things your employees do?

Cheers,

Guy

Political Correctness in the Workplace

Political Correctness in the Workplace

A lot of people ask me about political correctness and how it affects the workplace.   I tend to think in terms of what behaviors will get us the best results instead of getting stuck in the who-can-say-what-and-when approach.  What seems to work best for highly effective people and workplaces is to practice behaviors that build people up and encourage them to succeed.

Think of the results a leader gets from her people if she says certain things that bring them down versus how they will perform if she encourages them.  Imagine yourself in a situation where someone is constantly “joking” at your expense and then tells you to get over it.  How motivated would you be to do your best work?

If you think about it, people simply see things in different ways and come from different backgrounds.  There’s not a right or wrong to this concept, people just aren’t all the same.  This diversity of ideas, values and skills can help us build stronger workplaces or destabilize them, it’s up to us which path we take.

So ask yourself the following questions to see where you stand on political correctness.  Remember that the questions are not about being right or wrong, they just lead in different directions in the workplace.

  • Do you say things that seem to hurt other people?
  • Do you find yourself in conflict with others frequently?
  • Do you have to stop yourself from saying certain things?
  • Do you see all people as equal?
  • Do you treat yourself well?
  • Do you consistently walk a mile in someone else’s shoes?
  • Do you say certain things only around certain people?
  • Do you consistently look for people’s strengths?
  • Do you believe someone always needs to be on top?
  • Do you wish others were more like you?

Your answers to these questions generate predictable results in the workplace.  For example, if you frequently say things that seem to hurt others you will achieve a certain type of result on morale, motivation, productivity, cohesiveness, collaboration and any number of other factors.  If you do the opposite you will have another set of outcomes.  Notice that it’s not about good and evil, it’s just that certain behaviors will make you more effective in the workplace.

Ultimately, political correctness isn’t about other people, it’s about you.  You get to decide how effectively you interact with others and what kind of results you get.  This gives you a lot of power to go out there and create a successful workplace.

Cheers,

Guy